We can all use a little help from time to time, and it is no different for our trucks. Pickups are meant to work and are happiest when they are hauling a load. The only downside from the driver seat when hauling those big loads is how they negatively affect the ride quality of the pickup. Luckily, there is a solution: Firestone's Ride-Rite air helper spring kit.
The Ride-Rite kit utilizes a pair of high-quality Firestone air springs to aid in supporting heavy loads. When inflated, the air springs help to level out the vehicle, and that, in turn, helps to improve steering control and feel. They also help to reduce sway and bottoming, and provide for better overall vehicle control. Each kit will support up to 5,000 pounds and comes with a limited lifetime warranty. However, it's worth noting that adding air springs does not increase your truck's load carrying capacity; they simply help you make the most out of what you have already.
Our crew-cab Duramax is a great tow rig, but when loaded up with a cab-over camper and saddled with a trailer, we noticed the rear suspension sagging more and more. So we called up the guys at Summit Racing and ordered a Ride-Rite kit for our Silverado. Summit had the best prices, great customer service, and got the parts in our hands quicker than we could have expected. Follow along as we give our tow rig a helping hand.
Our 2004 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD is frequently loaded up with a 2,200-pound cab-over camper and 5,000-pound trailer, making it the perfect test subject for Firestone's Ride-Rite air helper spring kit. And thanks to the adjustable nature of the kit, the air springs are rated to support up to 5,000 pounds.
The kit includes a pair of Firestone double-convoluted air springs, airline, formed and powdercoated brackets, and all the hardware necessary for a complete install. An optional heat shield is included to protect the passenger-side air spring from the truck's hot exhaust, should the clearance be too tight.
1. Speaking of hardware, Firestone cut no corners with this kit. They provide grade-8 bolts with flanged deformed-thread locking nuts, thread sealer is applied where necessary, sleeves are provided to protect against airline chafing, and even an appropriate amount of zip ties are included.
2. Installation begins by assembling the brackets onto the air springs. The upper mounts are identical, and the mounting holes to be used are marked to indicate which side of the vehicle the air spring is going to be mounted on. We started with the driver side, so the air springs were attached to the bracket using the holes marked L for left. The operation is repeated for the passenger side, using the holes marked R.
3. Keeping with the high-quality aspect of this kit, Firestone uses brass push-lock air fittings. These fittings allow the end user to quickly and easily remove the airline (should the need ever arise) while still holding tightly in place during day-to-day use. Thread sealant comes applied from the factory, guaranteeing a leak-free fit and alleviating the need for cumbersome pipe tape.
4. With the upper and lower brackets and air fittings installed, the air spring unit is ready to be installed on the truck. A quick word of advice: Check the mounting bolt clearances before torqueing the bracket nuts. Even though the instructions didn't say to, we needed to place one of the upper mounting bolts in each bracket before securing the bracket to the air spring, because it wouldn't clear the spring with the bracket installed.
5. To mount the air springs to the truck, begin by removing the factory jounce bumpers. The new air springs will take the place of the bumpers and will take over those duties.
6. You may have noticed that our truck has a jounce bumper relocation bracket installed. The design of the Ride-Rite kit allows it to be installed on trucks with nearly any size lift kit, as long as a jounce bumper relocation bracket was installed. In our case, the 6-inch lift kit that our truck sports had no affect on the installation of the helper springs.
7. After the jounce bumper is removed, the air spring unit can be installed. The air spring will slide easily into place between the axle tube and frame rail. The unit may need to be compressed slightly to fit in place, but this can be easily done by hand.
8. The lower air-spring bracket keys into the factory U-bolts for a secure fit. A supplied U-bolt that wraps around the factory leaf spring perch secures the spring from lateral movement.
9. Attaching the air springs to the axle tube is the job of a pair of carriage bolts and an axle strap. Once tight, installation of the air springs is complete.
10. Air pressure is supplied to each of the springs by individual Schrader valves. The kit's instructions say to use a 5/16-inch drill bit to mount the inflation valves. We chose to replace the truck's license plate mounting bolts with the inflation valves for a clean, simple look.
11. Finally, installing the airline is a snap. Simply choose where the line will route, cut it to length, and slip into the push-lock fittings at the air spring and inflation valve. We used the supplied zip-ties to secure the airline out of harm's way.
12. The entire install took under two hours from start to finish and used only a couple basic hand tools. This is a kit that truly anybody could install.